The Gambian government on Tuesday has ordered for the reopening of two privately owned FM radio stations. The stations were shut down last month, following a public demonstration, in which the protesters had called for the resignation of President Adama Barrow. The Gambian government has also dropped the criminal charges it filed against the accused journalists.
Abubcarr Tambadou is Gambia’s Justice Minister. Tambadou addressed the press on Tuesday on the status of the two closed radio stations.
“We have had discussions with The Gambia Press Union with of course, through the good offices of the Human rights commission. The government has taken the decision to reopen the two radio stations that were closed around the 26th of January and to drop all charges against the journalists, who were arrested as a result of the consequence,” Tambadou said.
This followed a meeting Tambadou had with the officials of Gambia’s Human Rights Commission. Also, in attendance at the meeting, was The Gambia Press Union, and officials from the Ministry of Information.
The Brikama Home Digital FM and the King FM radio were shut down in the wake of the January protest march. The stations were accused of inciting violence; a charge its owners denied.
“We have all learn lessons from this episode. We hope we can avoid in the future both on the part of the government and of course media practitioners in the country. We can avoid the kind of situation that has led to the unpalatable ending for the both the government and the two radio stations who were affected. I believe that what has happened today if anything else, has firmly reiterated the position of the government to the promote the exercise the right to freedom of expression,” he added.
Tambadou has reaffirms the government’s commitment to media freedom. He cites the reopening of the two radio stations to justify his claims.
The Justice Minister has also criticized the quality of journalism in The Gambia. He said most Gambian journalists haven’t been professionally trained. He added that the poor quality of journalism is evident on the content of the reporters published news stories.
Tambadou called for professional training for Gambian journalists. He said some of The Gambian reporters running around, haven’t graduated from recognized journalism schools.
One Gambian journalist, who was at the press briefing, was offended by Tambadou’s comments. The reporter claimed that he graduated from the University of The Gambia Journalism school. He retorted by asking Tambadou if his Gambian lawyer colleagues were professionally trained. Tambadou was still adamant on his position. He maintains that not all lawyers are good at their jobs.
Emmanuel Joof is the Chairperson of Gambia’s Human Rights Commission.
“Today, we have been visited by the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Information and The Gambia Press Union. The visit is to talk about the pertinent issues surrounding the closure of the radio stations that took place and among other things; that we spoke about very freely and frankly and mainly is to look at issue that transpired in the last month, in January,” Lawyer Emmanuel Joof remarked.
Workers at the closed radio stations had suffered from what they called loss of earnings. This followed the government’s move to take them off air. They were not only detained but had their stations shutdown.
Sheriff Bojang jr is the President of The Gambia Press Union. Bojang argues that it was illegal for the government to shut down the radio stations.
“We felt the government in this case, exercised powers it never had; that has to be clear; and this is our point of view; The Gambia Press Union and this puts a lot of issues out there; the roof of insecurity; a roof of paranoia. The police IGP or whoever, can order his men to go and close radio stations without due process because due process was not followed,” Bojang said.
Bojang has called on the government to follow due process when closing radio stations. He maintains that the actions of the police were not in line with the dictates of the law.